The study, carried out by Punter Southall Health & Protection Consulting (PSHPC) for HR Magazine, reveals payouts vary enormously, depending on which industry people work in.
Whilst the financial services industry pays out an average of 4.63 times salary, the research shows high-risk sectors and those that do not have a strong unionised history often fail to provide dependants with anything at all.
For an average manager in financial services on a salary of £50,000, this would equate to a £230,000 payout. However, with 6% of schemes insuring a multiple of 7 times salary or more, dependants of an employee earning £130,000 a year in financial services could find themselves with a £1m pot.
One financial firm analysed in the research provided a benefit of a 14 times salary. In contrast, dependants of a typical £14,000 a year retail employee would get only £42,000.
After the financial service industry, IT and high-skilled manufacturing are the next most generous sectors, paying out multiples of 4.45 and 4.4 respectively, while sales/marketing/distribution and charities provide an average of 3.3 and 3.73 multiples of salary.
“Typically, in those sectors where employers are competing for talent, such as financial services and legal, there is better life assurance provision,” said PSHPC director John Dean. “Some 5% of our clients provide life assurance benefits of 8 times salary and the majority of these operate in the financial services sector.”
Employers in the UK tend to offer higher levels of life assurance than those in other countries, especially the US. The most common level of life assurance is 4 times salary, although this varies according to industry and employee grade.
Dean said this had risen since pensions legislation in 2006 enabled tax-free payouts of 4 times salary. With mortality rates averaging one per 1,000, small and medium sized businesses may face only one claim a decade. As a result, the process of managing a death in service may not be well documented and mistakes can creep in.
He added: “Businesses are just hoping it will all be okay. That’s fine in large companies with robust processes, but so often the risk to business is very high. Companies need to ensure their data and processes are up to date to avoid any delay in paying beneficiaries when they are at their most vulnerable.”
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